Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Global warming threatens plant diversity

Date:
May 10, 2010
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
In the coming decades, climate change is set to produce worldwide changes in the living conditions for plants. Thus today's cool, moist regions could in future provide habitats for additional species, and in arid and hot regions the climatic prerequisites for a high degree of plant diversity will deteriorate.

Climate change will have a clear impact on plant diversity worldwide. Today's cool and moist areas could in future offer habitats for additional species (green areas on the maps), in arid and hot regions the climatic prerequisites for a high species richness will deteriorate (orange-red areas on the maps). The illustration shows a comparison of the conservative 1.8°C scenario (IPCC B1) and a 4.0°C scenario (IPCC A1FI) which, if present climate policy is maintained, is clearly the more likely.
Credit: Copyright University of Bonn

In the coming decades, climate change is set to produce worldwide changes in the living conditions for plants, whereby major regional differences may be expected to occur. Thus today´s cool, moist regions could in future provide habitats for additional species, and in arid and hot regions the climatic prerequisites for a high degree of plant diversity will deteriorate. This is the conclusion reached in a new study by scientists at the Universities of Bonn, Göttingen and Yale, and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society London.

Dr. Jan Henning Sommer of Bonn University´s Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants asserts, "climate change could bring great confusion to the existing pattern of plant diversity, with scarcely predictable consequences for our ecosystems and mankind." The potential impact of climate change on global plant diversity has now, for the first time, been quantified and modeled on a regional basis. The researchers have investigated the numbers of plant species to be found in different regions under current climatic conditions, and the subsequent interrelationship they uncovered has now been applied to 18 different climate change scenarios for the year 2100.

However, the study does not permit any predictions regarding the degree to which the biodiversity of any given region will, in fact, adapt to new conditions or, in other words, whether additional species will migrate into favoured regions, or whether disadvantaged areas will in reality suffer mass losses of species. "That would be fortune-telling. The adaptability of species and their interactions in the ecosystem can, like human landuse, exert great influence on their distribution. This is a field about which we still know far too little," Sommer explains. Nevertheless, the published results do provide an important pointer to the likelihood of the scales of immigration or losses to be expected in given areas.

Globalisation in the Plant Kingdom

It is possible that the worst effects of global warming on plant species numbers could be felt in the tropical Amazonian rain forests in South America. For Germany and other temperate regions worldwide, on the other hand, scientists are expecting future climatic conditions which will promote the provision of habitat space for an increased number of species. "But this can scarcely be described as a gain as the intensified redistribution of plant species will promote worldwide uniformity in the regional composition of species at the expense of unique species which have adapted to special habitat conditions," says Sommer. And as a result, globalisation would also come to the plant kingdom.

In their study, the researchers have emphasised the clear division of our planet into two parts as regards the impact of climate change on plant diversity. "Additional capacity for plants species richness could be created everywhere where today cool and moist climatic conditions prevail," says Dr. Holger Kreft, the young research scientist from Bonn and co-author of the study, who has meanwhile assumed an appointment as junior professor at Göttingen University." On the other hand, in areas which today have a hot tropical or sub-tropical climate the prerequisites for high species numbers will deteriorate."

The main Originators of Climate Change less affected

This division also has a political dimension: favoured areas coincide largely with the industrialised nations, who are responsible for the majority of global warming due to their high amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The study also points clearly to the consequences of a half-hearted climate policy. Should the global temperature rise by 1.8°C with respect to the year 2000, then the proportion of favoured and disadvantaged regions in terms of species richness would still remain in balance. "Even if the climate protection goals agreed in Copenhagen are achieved, we would still tend to be heading for a rise in temperature of up to 4°C," says Sommer. In this case, the projected losses of capacity for plant species richness would considerably exceed possible gains in other regions.

"Politicians throughout the world should be paying greater attention to the impact of climate change on biodiversity as this is the basis of our human existence," demands Professor Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott, Director of the Nees Institute and co-author of the study. He and his study group have been investigating global plant diversity for 15 years. Barthlott welcomes the fact that the United Nations has declared 2010 to be the year of biodiversity. "This was an important signal!."

The study was funded by the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Global warming threatens plant diversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100323184611.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2010, May 10). Global warming threatens plant diversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100323184611.htm
University of Bonn. "Global warming threatens plant diversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100323184611.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins